Discover more from Living Off-Brand
My mother loves to burden her children with boxes from her attic
At Easter this year, I was “gifted” three memory boxes from my mother’s attic. She is pretty sure it was the last of them, and I am relieved. I don’t know how many I’ve gotten over the years, but I can tell you where a majority of the contents of those boxes ended up: the dumpster. When I told my coworker this, who has a grown kid who just bought his first house, she gasped in horror. She, like my mother, kept every drawing, every worksheet, every paper sent home from school for 18 years. To her, throwing them away was like throwing away their childhood.
Maybe it was. But when I look at these drawings and paintings, they are art that any kid could do, every kid does do. If I mix up some of my childhood art with my daughter’s, the only difference is the brittleness of the paper.
And that guiding principle is why so many of my child’s drawings, worksheets, papers sent from home meet the same dumpster fate.
I worry that when I purge these relics of the past that I am doing future me a disservice. As a writer who mostly writes about myself, I am literally narrowing my memory by getting rid of the physical evidence. And perhaps I should rethink throwing away my daughter’s stuff. I do appreciate that my mother left the fate of my work in my hands, that she could hand me the box of my childhood and say, “here, do with it what you will.” But also, what a burden to dig through thousands of pieces of paper, only to find a dozen or so worth keeping.
What I enjoyed far more than I expected was digging through the box with my daughter. The paper plate masks, the weird animal masks (there were A LOT of masks for some reason), the funny drawings I made of her uncle and grandparents as I saw them through immature eyes and created them with immature hands—we were both laughing ourselves to tears. “Mama, you were so weird!” she said of my 5-year-old self preserved in a carboard box.
“Well, one day you’ll back on this time in your life, and you’ll seem so weird, too,” I replied.
Yeah, I guess I gotta give her the chance to show her progeny just how weird she was. And now she knows she can blame it on me.
A bat mask - one of many, many masks in the memory box.
Next week I’m taking a writing class on hermit crab essays, which is using the form of something not an essay to house an essay. In other words, essays in the forms of grocery lists, high school tests, dating profiles, etc. One of the required readings is an essay called “The Shared Space Between Reader and Writer: A Case Study” by Brenda Miller. This essay not only does a beautiful job of explaining the form, but actually allows you to follow the mental process of a writer as she’s experimenting with life experiences in the form of rejection letters. As someone who reads a lot of rejection letters, I loved the variety of failures she came up with, and I love her attitude behind it—that because she was writing specifically in a rejection letter voice, the heavy content wasn’t so heavy; in fact, she was often laughing at herself or praising herself on her creativity. Sigh. Why can’t writing always be that enjoyable?
Dear 10th Grader:
Thank you for your application to be a girlfriend to one of the star players on the championship basketball team. As you can imagine, we have received hundreds of similar requests and so cannot possibly respond personally to every one. We regret to inform you that you have not been chosen for one of the coveted positions, but we do invite you to continue hanging around the lockers, acting as if you belong there. This selfless act serves the team members as they practice the art of ignoring lovesick girls.
The Granada Hills Highlanders
- Brenda Miller
Also in the memory box were a variety of ‘90s valentines. Enjoy this blast from the past.
I stumbled upon this essay by Lacy Warner called “A Personal History of Breastfeeding” and it gave me all the feels. I did not have an easy time with breastfeeding: I had to exclusively plump, which I did successfully for six months, but then my milk supply started to dwindle. With all the pressure on mothers to breastfeed, and with people just assuming it’s a natural (my least favorite word ever) thing that happens, it puts a lot of pressure on a mother who struggles. The part that really hurt was that she was struggling during a national shortage of formula (I was lucky; by then, I was long done with breastfeeding). Oof. I’m so glad she’s sharing her story with the world so people know it’s not something everyone can/should/needs to do.
At the same time that I was struggling to produce milk, America experienced a terrifying formula shortage after a contaminated batch at an Abbott plant led to a widespread recall, revealing the fragility of the formula supply that so many families depend on. But for every woman who was vocal about how the shortage should be considered a national emergency, there was someone, usually a man, asking why women couldn’t “just breastfeed.”
- Lacy Warner
These were in the breakroom this week, which, why? But people are eating them! Not me, but other people are. I mostly just like the tag line: “A whole llama fun!”
What I’m Reading:
Libby has not been kind to me lately. I’ve got three books that I’ve made it 80% through, but because they’ve got holds on them, they get taken away from me. I can share as well as the next librarian, sure, but then it’s months until I’m scheduled to finish them. I’m sad to say the same is true for what I’ve spent the last couple weeks reading: Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts. I’m enjoying it and I think it has a lot to say about American culture, but alas, I’ll have to wait to find out the ending.
What I’m Watching:
I’m late to this party, but we’ve been watching The Good Place. We are on season 3, and each season keeps surprising the crap out of me. After every episode, I just keep wondering where they’ve gonna go next. And so far they still keep finding someplace to go. And I love the premise of who you were doesn’t have to reflect who you are or who you will become. What a lovely message. Also, it’s pretty hilarious.
You May or May Not Have Noticed…
This newsletter started out as a weekly thing which has slowed to a biweekly thing, and the future and fate is still in the air. This is the Year of Yes, but this is also the Year of Joy, and I’m not entirely sure I’m getting enough joy out of it to continue. I love sharing goofy pics, and I love lifting up other writers, so I’ll hang around for now. But maybe you won’t hear from me as often as you have been.
Follow my daily joys on my Twitter page
Hope to see you next time. Make sure you don’t miss it - subscribe!
Want to share with all your friends? Hit the button below.